Madam Chair, the issue of French in Montreal is crucial because the fate of French in Quebec is being played out in Montreal. Basically, the fate of French in Canada and North America is being played out in Montreal, because the Montreal metropolitan area is home to almost 50% of Quebec's population and welcomes 90% of newcomers, within a few decimal places. We must therefore act quickly.
I will give some statistics, but it is important to remember that Montreal is responsible for welcoming and integrating immigrants and new citizens into the French community for Quebec as a whole. When it comes to the mother tongue, some people say that it should not be taken into account. I agree that it is not the most important indicator, but the mother tongue accounts for intergenerational transmission to some extent, because we pass on our mother tongue to future generations. When allophones or francophones transfer to English, that becomes the mother tongue of their children. In Montreal, there is no doubt that French is rapidly declining as a mother tongue.
Let us look at the language of use, which is a much more meaningful indicator. On the Island of Montreal, between 2001 and 2016, the percentage of people who said French was their language of use dropped from 56.4% to 53.1%, a 3% decrease. For English, over the same period, the percentage rose from 25% to 25.1%, for a 1% increase.
In the greater Montreal area, between 2001 and 2016, French dropped from 70.7% to 68.4%. In only 15 years, that is a 2.3% decrease. English went from 17.4% to 17%, which is also a decrease, but of 0.4% only.
For Quebec as a whole, use of French decreased from 83.1% to 80.6%, a 2.5% reduction over 15 years. That is enormous. English, meanwhile, increased by 0.2%, from 10.5% to 10.7%. Charles Castonguay said that for the first time in Quebec's history, French was receding as the proportion of anglophones increased.
Earlier, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie said that there had been an improvement and that more immigrants were integrating in French. That is partially true because language transfers to French increased from 46% to 54%. However, it is important to understand that 46% of transfers to English, with just over 10% of people who speak English at home is huge, while for 80% of people who speak French at home, only 56% switched to French. That is progress but it is not enough, because to maintain our demographic weight, we need at least 90% of language transfers to be toward French.
Why has there been an increase? It is because the Government of Quebec selected more immigrants who are francophone or who already speak French, so that is not an impact of Bill 101. A disproportionate number of newcomers who become anglicized tend to leave Quebec. That gives the impression that language transfers to French are increasing.
When we look at the language vitality indicator, we see that the proportion of people with French as their mother tongue on the Island of Montreal increased by 6% in 2011 through language transfers. In 2016, it was 10% more. For English, in 2001, there were 41% more people who spoke English at home than people who had English as a mother tongue. That number was 45% in 2016.
For the greater Montreal area, French increased by 2% in 2001 because of language transfers and by 6% in 2016. English increased from 24% to 42% because of language transfers. For Quebec as a whole, French increased by 2% in 2001 and by 3% in 2016 because of allophones switching to French. English increased by 26% in 2011 and 32% in 2016 for that same reason.
We see that French's power of attraction is not strong enough. A study on language planning around the world showed that to ensure the future of a language, it has to be the official and common language of a given territory. These models are based more on the principle of territoriality and collective rights, as seen in Belgium and Switzerland, countries that have several national languages. In Belgium, on the Flemish side, everything happens in Dutch. That does not stop people from learning three or four other second languages very well, but Dutch is not threatened even though it is a language that is not spoken much around the world.
That is the model that inspired Bill 101. Once Bill 101 was established, there was real progress in French and an increase in language transfer.
However, as soon as every Supreme Court ruling started chipping away at Bill 101, and especially when the Constitution was patriated, judges from every federal court in Quebec weakened Bill 101 in almost every application sector. In 1982, the government imposed a Constitution and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms on us that completely undermined the educational part of Bill 101, which was the most important part.
Our colleague from Mount Royal was a member of Alliance Québec, a group that fought a real legal guerilla war against Bill 101 and whose fight was subsidized by the federal government. The Official Languages Act is based on a model that invariably leads to the assimilation of minority languages. It is a kind of institutional bilingualism centred on individual rights that produces the same result all over the world, namely the assimilation of minority languages. In spite of that, the situation of francophone and Acadian communities improved because French schools and government services in French used to be forbidden in just about all the provinces. People really needed to mobilize for change to occur, and the Official Languages Act finally came, offering a smattering of services in French. Unfortunately, they are largely insufficient. With every census, we also see an increase in the rate of assimilation and anglicization of francophones outside Quebec.
Certain budgets are associated with the Official Languages Act. That is what I was talking about earlier. Some $80 million a year is earmarked exclusively for anglophone pressure groups, groups like the Quebec Community Network, which appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages not long ago. Its representatives said that the education measures were a violation of civil rights, despite the fact that this is how it is done around the world. Go to the United States and ask for French public schools. It is not going to happen. In the rest of Canada, many francophones do not have access to French-language schools.
One of the speakers talked about Frédéric Lacroix's book entitled Pourquoi la loi 101 est un échec, or “why Bill 101 is a failure”. The author concludes that the situation is catastrophic in Montreal because the worse it gets, the more language transfers to English increase. He talks about the concept of institutional completeness, which means that the bigger a linguistic group's network of institutions, the more pull its language exerts. We know that Montreal was the focal point of English Canadians' economic dominance for a long time. The Laurendeau-Dunton commission revealed that, of the 14 linguistic groups in Quebec in 1961, francophones ranked 12th for average income. Their average income was 51% of that of anglophones.
We have seen some progress with Bill 101, but there is still work to do because francophones' average income is still lower than anglophones'. We can see it, and it is very strange.
My regards to those opposition colleagues who are fellow members of the Standing Committee on Official Languages. We had to push very hard, but we finally passed a unanimous motion.
For the first time in 51 years, a study will be conducted on the French situation, the effects of the federal language policy and Bill 101. These really are factors that run contrary to one another. On top of that, this $80 million is also being used to promote institutional bilingualism.
On the one hand, officials in Montreal are working to ensure that newcomers are integrated into the francophone community. It is normal for newcomers to want to head towards the majority, so they have a natural propensity to move towards the English side. Bill 101 sends a message that French is the common language and the language of work, in order to encourage these people to integrate.
On the other hand, the federal government funds the promotion of English in Quebec and tells these newcomers that French is not necessarily the official language that must be adopted and that they have the right to have services in the language of their choice.
In closing, I think that what is happening right now is very important. The fact that the federal government has recognized the decline of French sets a precedent, but it will take concrete action and much stronger measures than the simple knowledge of French as a prerequisite for citizenship or applying the law to institutions under federal jurisdiction. Otherwise, the government will simply demonstrate once again to Quebeckers that the only way to ensure the future of the French language is through Quebec's independence.